How To Deal With Paranoia?
At the moment I am staying somewhere in Central Vietnam for work. Recently I have been reading Stickman’s website, and while it was and is a very pleasurable, informative, confronting and eye-opening experience, I have been becoming a bit paranoid
when dealing with Vietnamese / Southeast-Asian girls. Before sharing a story, I would like to comment on the story of Peter Hanlan, My Vietnamese Disaster,
of 3/4/2012. With all respect, when reading his story, I continuously felt sorry for the Vietnamese girl he was dating. It seems he was so pre-occupied by being cheated by her that he was realizing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Especially this quote:
I guess I was selfish in a way but I had read so many stories of girls ripping off Westerners on Stickman I thought, well, why can't we do that to them.”; struck me. Are we entering an era now where Westerners try to scam
Asian girls first, because otherwise they think that they will be scammed by them? Will also ‘normal’ girls be victims of foreigners who are too suspicious and come up with their own scams just to have a quick shag? I guess there
will be plenty of others guys like Peter in Asia. I highly doubt whether all the things he gave her and her family were requested by them. I think that he was just desperately trying to keep this girl, but that he eased his mind by blaming the
girl and her family for his impulsive buying behavior and scams. But enough about this story, I would like to focus on paranoia when it comes to Southeast-Asian girls, perhaps Vietnamese girls in particular.
The city where I am staying now is a lovely city. It has a few backpacker bars, Vietnamese nightclubs and dozens of coffee-shops. There are no girly bars here, and you have to go to massage salons (Tam Quat), guesthouses (Nha Nghi) or karaoke clubs to find the sex workers. I have stayed here long enough to know everyone working in the foreigner-friendly bars, and I befriended some of them. Some of them could even be described as close friends, as if, I would trust them for 100%. Most people here working in the foreigner friendly bars, are part-time students themselves. We are not talking about un-educated people here. In one particular bar, there are also some dodgy people present, e.g. pimps, street thugs etc, and a few sex-workers, who probably are too old for Vietnamese patrons. What annoys me most is that the bar owner, who I know, (but probably think I know) well, allows those scum in his bar. But I guess it has something to do with organized crime, and if you avoid them, nothing will happen, so in a certain way, no harm is done with them in the bar. A new scene however, which I was not familiar with a few years ago when I was also in this town, are groups of Vietnamese boys and girls partying in foreigner friendly bars. This city is fairly conservative, and girls, especially students, who come back home late are frowned upon. Especially if you are still out drinking at 1 or 2 AM, locals believe that there must be something ‘wrong’ with those girls. We are not talking about westernized girls here, but groups of Vietnamese youngsters having a good time. The staff told me that they come every night, simply because they have too much money to spend. With a booming economy as Vietnam, it’s not hard to believe that there is a rapidly growing middle class. So far, nothing wrong.
I have always encountered and talked with sex-workers and people involved in the industry during my travels and work in Asia. Being fairly aware of their tactics, their non-verbal and verbal communication and tricks to fool customers + a healthy dose of Stickman stories, made me a bit paranoid and suspicious, when meeting Vietnamese girls in this particular foreigner bar. One night I met four girls who barely spoke English, but we were able to communicate in Vietnamese which was a pleasurable experience for me, because after consuming a lot of alcohol my knowledge of Vietnamese seems to be much better too. I met one particular girl I liked and she told me her name which is, and now I am going to use a fake name, Yu. Her non-verbal communication looked awfully lot like the numerous prostitutes I have encountered during my travels. Like the fake smile, dancing artificially, non-necessary physical contact (I mean more like touching your arm, or something like that, nothing ‘dirty’), overdose of compliments, and so on. However, that shouldn’t be enough to be suspicious. It could also just be my twisted mind. I am not that good-looking (nor ugly, I have to be honest now), but it is fairly normal in Vietnam to be complimented on your appearance (handsome boy = dep trai) up to a point that it even gets annoying, so most of the time I pretend not to speak Vietnamese (hehe). However, there were other things which made me suspicious as well: 1) She was asking me continuously to visit her friend’s coffee shop (one of the four girls), and made me promise to come; I felt it was a scam; 2) Yu (actually the name she told me) is not a Vietnamese name (and I confirmed this with other Vietnamese); I wondered why she didn’t give me her real name. When asking her about it she became somewhat annoyed that I didn’t believe her; 3) Her friend, who has the coffee shop seemed to have an almost desperate interest in me and Yu seemed not to mind at all, and; 4) The second time I met her, she was with other Vietnamese guys (while they did not belong to the thugs who were present in the bar, they looked like them), of which one was her “brother”, it was just a too similar a situation to when I met working girls in Thailand or Philippines; 5) She texted me and contacted me too much in the two days we had known each other. So that second night I was clear with her, I texted her that I have a girlfriend already, that I don’t want to meet her outside this particular bar, and that I wished her all the best – just to save myself for any future problems. I kept polite because I didn’t want to have any potential problems with the thugs in those bars, of which I am (still) not sure whether she knows them. She responded very kind, telling me that it was no problem and that we still could be friends. However, what bothered me most was that the bar staff did not warn me of these girls. Even my friends who I would describe as close did not warn me. Even when I asked them about those girls, they seemed to be confused and their answer on whether or not to meet her was very vague. While it was not necessarily about Yu, or about her beauty (so no need for me to describe her in more detail, also to protect her privacy), I became somewhat obsessed with this issue. Has my mind been poisoned by paranoia? Is it hard for me to trust Vietnamese girls I meet in bars? And did I become a racist? What was wrong with me? I decided to do further research.
Of course first of all I consulted my Vietnamese and expat friends. Some of my friends told me to trust my gut-feeling, others comforted me by saying she was probably a new middle class girl. I felt betrayed by my friends working in that particular bar, but at the same time, how could I blame them for something which I don’t know is true? It could also be my own silly paranoia. Then I used my fake Facebook account (which I normally only reserve for domestic workers in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, see my other blog) and I added her as a friend. Judging from her photos, she was genuinely a student which she told me, her photos with friends were very innocent looking, and judging from her Facebook she seems to be a very average girl who likes to party. Furthermore, her friend did have a coffee-shop and seemed to visit that place a lot. So probably I was wrong. But still, in a conservative town it is not ‘normal’ for a girl to go out every night. So judging her from Central-Vietnamese standards, she was not a ‘good’ girl or highly questionable at most. On the other hand, standards in every society are changing, and I saw her refusing other men in this particular bar, and she nor her friends wanted to accept drinks from me. Browsing through her graduation photos, I could not help feeling guilty for mistrusting everyone including my friends working in this bar. But still, this gut feeling… it is annoying. I was fantasizing that she, as a good girl, was maybe negatively influenced by thugs, to work in prostitution or by scamming foreigners. But looking at her Facebook-list she hardly had any foreign friends and if she really had bad intentions with me why didn’t she try it when I was drunk and easily convinced to go ‘somewhere’? I know some scams are too perfect to be true, but the easiest way to my wallet would have been that night.
In the end, I am happy how I ended this issue. This story is not so much about Yu, but about my own prejudices, my own stereotyping of Southeast-Asian girls going to bars and perhaps my newly created racist worldview. In no way would I like to blame Stickman for what I have been starting to see or believe, but sometimes it’s not good to read too many scam-stories in a row. I also read ‘success-stories’ on your website. But it’s often hard for me to relate to people writing on this website since most of them already have money, a well-established position, and are well over 30-40, all of which are not applicable to me. Therefore, it is easy to dismiss the success stories, especially if it is about people who found their wife through a marriage agency. Besides that, Thailand and Vietnam are two completely different worlds, I have to say that.
It is a dilemma to judge local people from the local standards or your own. According to my own standards there is nothing wrong with partying every night, especially if you are a 19-year old student. However according to Vietnamese standards, there should be something wrong with them. However, present standards are changing, and how do you keep up with it? Even my Vietnamese friends complain about what to believe and not to believe anymore. Is it a new standard for Vietnamese girls to go out in this fairly conservative town? Did I just miss a chance to get to know a beautiful young girl? Or have I saved myself from a big scam, and did I develop a sixth sense when dealing with this issue? I guess I will never know the answer. I very much want to believe that this was a good and ‘normal’ girl. Probably it is better for my ego too. But I am happy to have been clear with her, and that I did not take this situation any further. It basically deals with several ethical dilemmas:
– Which standard do you choose to judge those girls? The western one or the Vietnamese one?
– Should you follow your gut-feeling?
– Would it unreasonable to judge others according to your gut-feeling?
There are no girly-bars in Vietnam like I said before, and prostitution in Vietnam has not been fully (actually not at all in this town) catered to foreigners yet as in Thailand or even Cambodia. Vietnamese society is rapidly changing. Standards change so rapidly that Vietnamese people in their mid-late-twenties don’t even know what teenagers are up to nowadays and it’s all a very confusing situation. However, I decided not to go for girls I meet in bars. Just to save myself for all the potential problems I could encounter. She has to be very special for me take it a step further. And regarding my decision on Yu, I am happy I did it.
This is not so much a story about her, but more about the threat of foreigners scamming ‘normal’ girls. I still believe that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. So, if you are 50 years old and not that successful in life, why would you ever think that a girl in her twenties would genuinely fall for you? I guess this question has been asked several times on your website. But I have never seen someone dealing with scamming foreigners before. I think that it’s best to prevent it now, before others continue to spoil ‘normal’ girls, and ruining the reputation of western men in Asia. Especially in a country as Vietnam, where mixed-couples are not as abundant as Thailand or Cambodia.
I don't want to sound religious or preachy, but I simply believe that Western men should treat these women the way they would want to be treated themselves, or the way they would be happy for men to treat their sister or their daughter or their mother.
As for avoiding scams with women, take your time to get to know a lady. There really should be no rush if you're serious about someone and 98% of women will be happy you didn't try to smash the ball out of the stadium so to speak on the first date.